Stories of war crimes in Ukraine have led nearly half a dozen European nations to ramp up the isolation of Russia even further. Starting yesterday, Italy kicked Russian diplomats out of the embassy in that country. They were quickly followed by Spain, France and Germany. Discussions are underway in other countries to take similar actions. All of this comes on the heels of additional seizures of property belonging to Russian oligarchs and other wealthy business owners. Of course, if you get your news from Russian state media, this will only be seen as further “proof” that NATO is seeking to “destroy” Russia, justifying Vladimir Putin’s actions. And his approval ratings at home continue to rise based on all of this propaganda. (Associated Press)

Spain is joining other European Union countries in expelling Russian diplomats.

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares announced Tuesday that at least 25 diplomats and staff at the Russian Embassy in Madrid are being expelled…

Germany, France, Italy and Spain are among the countries which have expelled diplomats since Monday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov fired back quickly, saying that these expulsions will “prompt a response” from Moscow, further complicating international relations. What form that response will take was not specified. Booting out European diplomats doesn’t sound likely because most countries have already pulled their people out in fear of Putin having them locked up and taken hostage.

I don’t want to sound as if I’m siding with the Kremlin here (because I’m not), but these moves may turn out to be self-destructive. While it currently appears impossible to force any sort of common sense on Putin or convince him to withdraw from Ukraine through diplomacy, that doesn’t mean that we should simply throw up our hands and give up. Face-to-face communications are always more meaningful than a phone call or video conference, so sending all of Russia’s diplomats back home is only going to make any sort of negotiations even more challenging. It seems unlikely at the moment, but if Putin hears from enough of his own people that his country is heading down a path toward disaster, he may eventually give in. (Assuming he still has the mental capacity to make rational decisions, which remains a big assumption.)

Meanwhile, France has opened an investigation into possible war crimes committed against French citizens in Ukraine. French law allows for the prosecution of those who commit such crimes, though it’s unclear how they will determine who was directly responsible in the middle of a war zone.

French prosecutors say they’re opening investigations into possible war crimes committed against French nationals in Ukraine since Russian troops invaded.

The national prosecutors’ office that specializes in terrorism cases said it launched three war crimes investigations on Tuesday, against suspects yet to be identified…

The three French probes will look into suspected crimes in Mariupol, Chernihiv and Hostomel.

The French prosecutors are alleging that Russian forces engaged in deliberate attacks against civilians, deprived civilians of essential survival resources, and committed intentional destruction of civilian infrastructure. One look at the various social media streams coming out of the country or the satellite images makes it pretty clear that there is a good case to be made for these charges. But who would the charges be filed against? Aside from Putin or possibly some of his generals (among the few that remain alive, anyway) it would likely be very difficult to pin down any suspects.

One final development to note is that Norwegian publishing giant Amedia is abandoning its printing operations in Russia and turning over its eight printing operations to the editor of a Russian newspaper that is currently shut down by order of the Kremlin. It’s just one more of many businesses that will likely never return to Russia even after the war ends. Putin is gutting his own country’s economy and the citizens there will almost certainly figure this out sooner or later.

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